This month as you continue to explore Psalm 23 please remember this is not a time for you to rush through the psalm but rather to slowly make your way through the psalm, listening for the tender voice of your Shepherd, seeking to linger with God’s spirit in the verse(s) in which the Shepherd invites you to camp out. Take your time to heed, savor and embrace the words of the Shepherd and fully enter into the invitation and challenge that may be contained in those words. Sit with the questions and explore the feelings that arise as you journey through this psalm. Be willing to wrestle with God, with yourself, through this process.
This month you are invited to discover what it means to rest in the lush green grass of the meadow and sip from the quiet waters. These two verses are a place for you to dwell, pitching a tent and sitting with the words and images you are most drawn to and hanging out there with God for a while, seeking to discover what the invitation, challenge, reminder and/or encouragement from those words might be for you. In other words, slow yourself down, externally and internally, and listen for the voice of the Shepherd as you make your way through Psalm 23.
1. Below you will find a compilation of translations/paraphrases of verses 2 and 3 of Psalm 23. Read through each verse of Psalm 23 and choose the translation/phrase to which you are most drawn and combine them into your own Psalm 23. Once you have completed compiling your chosen translation of these two verses slowly go back through it, pondering why you chose the translation/phrase you did for each verse. What does this tell you about your concept of God? What does this tell you about your need/desire for God? How do these words make your feel toward your Shepherd, your life, yourself?
God/he makes me lie down in green pastures
you have bedded me down in lush meadows
God/he lets me rest in green meadows
you bring me to green pastures to rest
He leads me beside quiet waters
you find me quiet pools to drink from
he leads me beside peaceful streams
leads me beside quiet waters
he restores my soul
he renews my strength and lets me catch my breath
you restore my soul
he guides me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake
you send me the right direction
he guides me along right path, bringing honor to his name
you lead me in the path of goodness to follow love’s way
God makes me lie down in green pastures:
1. What are the green pastures of your life? Take some time to make a list of the green pastures God leads you to. Now notice what those pastures do for you, i.e. provide rest, comfort, etc. Spend some time thanking God for the green pastures God has led you to in your life and what he has provided for you through them. You can also create a collage or paint a picture that communicates to you the gift/invitation of green pastures.
2. In the book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by Philipp Keller, he writes that it is almost impossible for sheep to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met. He enumerates these requirements as freedom from fear, tension, aggravations and hunger. Now look at your life. What keeps you from resting? What internal resistance do you have regarding resting? Consider what it is that you turn to in order to get a sense of identity and value. With those thoughts in mind, what might it be that may keep you from resting?
Spend some time enumerating the benefits of lying down in green pastures and resting with God. Now go take a rest.
3. Spend some time in your green pasture with God resting. As you rest, become aware of your feelings and the internal noises that begin to rise within you. What do you feel/sense internally as you rest? What are the sources of these feelings/voices? Write down your feelings of resistance and the internal voices that surface when you are taking time to rest. Now drop them in the trash. After you have done so, lie down again and listen for the invitation from God in your time of rest.
God leads me beside quiet waters:
1. Jesus refers to himself as the living waters that bring long-lasting refreshment to those who drink from him. When, where and how do you receive refreshment from God? What is the last time you intentionally took steps to partner with God in order to pursue refreshment of your soul, spirit, mind, body and heart? What are you sensing from God and yourself in terms of your current need for refreshment and replenishment? Share your desires/needs with God.
2. Go to a place that has quiet water (a lake, stream, ocean, even a swimming pool or bath tub or pull up a picture on your computer of such places) dip your feet in the water and linger there. What feelings arise as you sit beside the quiet waters? What questions, prayers arise within you? Share your thoughts and feelings with God.
3. What keeps you from lingering along quiet waters, of taking the time to let God refresh your body, soul and spirit? What is it that drives you away from resting, being still and knowing God is a place of unhurried spaciousness? Share your thoughts and feelings with God.
4. Create a collage that communicates to you the gift/invitation of quiet waters and green meadows to remind you of the importance of resting with Jesus.
God restores my soul:
1. Take some time to examine the state of your being. What is your body, soul and spirit saying to you? Are you in need of restoration physically, emotionally, spiritually? What could you do to partner with God to help bring restoration to your life? Do you need to take a day or two away? Do you need to change your lifestyle, eat healthier, exercise, cut back at work, etc? Do you need someone to intentionally journey with you for a while, a counselor, pastor, spiritual director? Spend some time pondering this with God and listening to God for guidance.
God guides me in paths of righteousness for his namesake:
1. What are the paths of righteousness in which God is seeking to guide you? As Jesus guides you, what is it that helps you to keep following Jesus? Is it difficult or easy for you to follow after Jesus? Why? What are the things that enable you to follow Jesus more willingly and what are the things that hinder you from following Jesus? What do you need to hear from Jesus that would help you to be better able and more willing to follow Jesus? Bring your response to the previous question to Jesus, seeking to hear his reply to you.
2. The shepherd's reputation is tied to the care that the shepherd gives to the sheep in the shepherd's flock. Take some time to reflect back over your life, not merely focusing on the concrete circumstances, both good and bad, but also paying special attention to those things in your life and heart that were produced as a result of those circumstances. In addition, pay attention to what you learned about who God is and is not through those circumstances. Spend time exploring and unpacking those things that surface during the time of reflection. What feelings are stirred within you as you reflect upon your life? What does your life declare to be true about who God is?
A good way to reflect on your life is to focus on periods of time, such as:
0-5 years old
Grade School years
Junior High/Middle School years
High School years
Next month we will be looking at Psalm 23:4.
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